Formations Summary

May–August 2024

Unit 1: The Contemplative Life

Taylor Sandlin

Much of our lives is bent toward striving. We strive to make a living and to get ahead financially. We work as hard at spiritual things as we do at all the rest. Time and again, the Scriptures invite us to stop our striving and turn our attention to what God is already doing on our behalf. In session 1, the psalmist invites us to still our efforts so that we might know that the Lord is God. In session 2, Paul encourages the Romans not to fear even when their prayers fall short, trusting that the Holy Spirit prays through us. In session 3, Jesus assures us that God hears our prayers and will meet our needs. In session 4, Paul prays that we might know the riches of the glorious inheritance we have in Christ. Though we may not all be inclined toward contemplation, we can all benefit from learning how to reflect on who God is and what that means for us.

Unit 2: The Life of Peter

Joe LaGuardia

This unit explores five seasons in Peter’s life, drawing parallels with our own journeys of spiritual maturity. In session 1, we explore what it’s like to enter a season of new beginnings, just as Peter was called by Jesus. Next, we experience a season of confrontation as Jesus confronts Peter’s assumptions about ministry and God’s mission. The third and fourth seasons of Peter’s life and ours involve a crisis of faith and healing. In lessons 3 and 4, Peter denies Jesus three times at his trial, only to find healing and restoration in the presence of the risen Savior. In the final session, Peter has now grown until he resembles his Master, healing and preaching like Jesus. What does our own spiritual maturity look like? How will we grow deeper into Christlike ministry? As we experience each stage of faith with Peter, let us remember that God’s word speaks not only about the past but also into God’s transformative present.

Unit 3: The Book of Daniel

Barry Stricker

Daniel was part of the group carried into exile when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah in the sixth century BC. As we explore the story of Daniel and his friends, we will grapple with four important questions. One, When does my faith require me to say no? Two, Where do I find hope when life seems out of control? Three, How do I respond to hard or challenging words from God? Four, What risks does faith require me to take? Daniel would have been safer if he had kept his faith in God private, but he continued to express his faith despite the risks to his position and even his life. Thankfully, God provided rescue for Daniel, but that isn’t always what happens. Throughout this unit, we will ask ourselves, Are we willing to be faithful even when God does not intervene?

Unit 4: Exemplary Leaders

LaMon Brown

This unit highlights four stories from the Bible that illustrate some of the characteristics of effective leadership. The first session looks at Judges 4 and the judge, Deborah, who inspired others. The second session examines the familiar story of David and Goliath, focusing on how David found courage in a crisis to overcome a challenge. Session 3 focuses on Paul, who led with his life, not just his words. Finally, session 4 examines Jesus’s time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggling with what would come next. We are all leaders of some sort in our personal lives and in our communities of faith. If we influence others to lead good lives, we are practicing the essence of good leadership.

September–December 2024

Unit 1: 1 Thessalonians: Hope in the Lord

Darrell Gwaltney

Letters like 1 Thessalonians help us hear part of Paul’s side of an extended conversation with a newly founded Christian community. The things the Thessalonians were concerned about and the things Paul chose to address still sound familiar to Christians today. Paul cared deeply for these believers. He applauded them for their faithfulness and the example they set for others. He encouraged them even when they faced difficult times, but he also challenged them to live in exemplary ways. Faced with an uncertain future, he reminded them that God would always be there for them. Together we will learn from an early community of believers who have much to teach us about faith, love, and hope.

Unit 2: The Stewardship of Time

Jason Loscuito

In this unit we will read, reflect on, and discuss the concept of time and how humans understand it. In session 1, we will explore what faithful Sabbath keeping might look like in our context and consider the importance of observing a weekly day of rest. Next, we will study the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel, an unexpected event which became a milestone in Jacob’s life. In session 3, the Preacher will challenge us to consider the changing seasons of life. Finally, we will learn about the Jubilee year, when liberty was proclaimed throughout the land. Together, we will reflect on how we might make the most of the time God has given to each of us.

Unit 3: Worship in the New Testament

Danny Chisholm

Through the centuries, worship content and styles have changed along with social and cultural contexts. In this five-lesson unit, we will explore five aspects of Christian worship, as depicted in the New Testament. First, we will discuss the value of reconciliation with others is an essential precursor to worship. Second, we will listen to Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, learning how authentic worship breaks down barriers. Next, the apostle Paul will provide one of the clearest pictures of worship in the New Testament era, describing a gathering in which everyone plays a role and can use their spiritual gifts. Session 4 will explore expressing the change that God has brought in our lives through worship. Finally, we will study James’s teachings on ways to minister to one another and show concern during difficult circumstances.

Unit 4: Prelude to Grace

Stephanie Ezell

This unit will help us consider the ways Jesus’s birth transformed God’s relationship with humanity. First, we will learn how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple and told him that he and Elizabeth would be the parents of John the Baptist, even though they were elderly and barren. Then we will read about the birth and naming of John the Baptist and the ending of Zechariah’s mutism. Next, we will explore Paul’s letter reassuring to the Galatians that they do not need to follow all the religious laws of the past to follow Jesus. Fourth, we will read about an angel coming to Joseph in a dream, telling him he would be the earthly father of the Messiah. Finally, we will read about King Herod ordering that all the babies in Bethlehem be. Through this unit, we will discover how God is faithful in the past, the present, and the future.